An IEP is something that not many people need to worry about Parents with special needs kids know exactly what IEP stands for, and the importance of getting this process running smoothly. It will determine the success and the future of your child.
IEP stands for Individualized Education Program and is developed + personalized for each child that needs special education. It is a legal document between the school and the parents, to ensure their child gets the support and opportunities to succeed.
More importantly, it creates a map of services, supports, and instructions that your child needs, and this then follows your child throughout their life until the age of 21.
Each IEP is designed to meet a student’s unique needs, so it is tailored to your child.
Our son has Down Syndrome and has been classified with multiple disabilities, so we have been through plenty of IEP meetings, and can share some experiences if needs be.
Send me a message and you can talk to my awesome wife who happens to be a special needs advocate too and has done great work for many families in NJ and NY.
I can only say that it is important to invest time into the details of these IEPs to ensure your child gets the necessary support.
No offense to schools, but they will often just offer the minimum and attempt to push certain approaches on to your child. This is of course in a supportive way and the school always has the child at the center.
That said, you need to read the IEP, read the reports from your child’s team and then provide constructive feedback. If you do not invest the time in this step, then you are bound to misunderstand or miss important changes to the IEP.
It is your child’s future and you need to take this very seriously, no matter how busy you are. It is a vital step in your child’s future.
Since moving to the US in 2011, we have gradually learned more and more about the IEP process and how to navigate this at times complex topics.
Luckily my dear wife has gone one step further and read as many of the laws and guidelines for IEPs, and has become a wizard in interpreting and providing feedback on the IEPs we have received for our son.
She has started a small business in her spare time, helping other families in NY, CT, and NJ with their IEPs, and have even been to court with some families as they battle with their school districts.
Please feel free to reach out to her directly, on her Facebook page.
One thing that we have both learned, and something that I want to share with families with special needs kids, try not to be emotional or too personal in your IEP discussions.
Of course, you need to be involved, but if you can leave emotions outside, the IEP conversations will go much smoother.
You might not like what is being said and what is being proposed, but this is part of the negotiations. The school reports what they encounter with your child, and this might not be nice to hear or accept.
Nevertheless, you have every right to suggest and demand changes, and this will ensure that your child gets the best options.
You also need to accept that you will not get everything that you demand or have heard from other families that you can get. It all depends on the school district and your child’s needs.
We have been lucky that our son has been extremely well looked after and we have very good relations with his IEP team. This makes every meeting a lot more relaxed and we all work towards the best plan for our son.
It also makes it easier to have a conversation about different approaches, new tools, and changes. The IEP team knows that we are not being unreasonable and they are therefor more amenable to supporting our requests.
If you go into these meetings with demands, threats of lawyers and a negative attitude toward the team, then it will become an uphill battle.
Like any negotiations, you win some and you lose some.
Here are a few tips we’ve learned over the years
- Accept you cannot win every request – you negotiate
- Always ask for conversations and agreements in writing, by emails or letters
- Teachers and you are the best teams for your child
- Avoid making the meeting toxic and personal
- Know your rights and consult an IEP advocate for second opinions
- Accept that your child might need more help than the school can offer
- Seek and explore alternative opportunities for your child
- If you have to go to court, DO NOT be emotional in front of the judge
I would strongly advise you to reach out to my wife, no matter where in the US you might live, and explore your child’s IEP with my wife. She has several years of experience and will be able to guide and support your efforts.
She also presents to organizations, parent groups, special needs gatherings and other events.